Maryland-based carpetbagger Bishop Harry Jackson and seven co-plaintiffs have filed a suit in DC Superior Court in order to force Washington residents into a public vote on marriage equality. Jackson’s action comes after DC’s Board of Elections and Ethics refused to allow a ballot on the issue.
In the 15-page filing, Jackson and his seven co-petitioners argue that the city’s ordinances gives residents the same lawmaking power as the council, except for appropriations. “The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage,” said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative legal group representing Jackson. “The D.C. Charter guarantees the people the right to vote, and the council cannot amend the charter for any reason, much less to deny citizens the right to vote.”
Meanwhile DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and City Councilman Vincent Gray were called before a U.S. House committee, where anti-gay congress members interrogated them on their refusal to allow a popular vote on civil rights.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), the ranking member of the subcommittee that has oversight over District laws, noted that voters in 31 states have rejected same-sex marriage. “I’m disappointed the people are not getting an opportunity to vote on this issue,” Chaffetz said. Fenty responded that he stands by the board’s opinion, which said city code prohibits a public vote on a matter protected under the Human Rights Act. “The voters of the District of Columbia have elected a fabulous council to make those decisions,” Fenty said. Later, Rep. Brian P. Bilbray noted that his home state of California allowed its residents to vote on that state’s same-sex marriage law, which they overturned. He then asked Fenty what he should tell his constituents about the District’s decision not to give its residents the same right. “What you can say,” Fenty responded, “is the people of the District of Columbia have a different set of laws.”
Despite all of the above, backers are optimistic that the bill will become law without a public vote.